March 31, 2023

Film review: The new ‘Top Gun’ will satisfy the masses

Cruise smiles a lot, flies a lot and gets ‘er done


It doesn’t really matter what critics think about “Top Gun: Maverick.” It’s going to be a box-office success, even though it feels like a Reagan-era retread celebrating the U.S. military-industrial complex.

Yes, Tom Cruise of the original 1980s “Top Gun” is back with his million-dollar smile, doing his own stunts in spiffy jets, celebrating the cocksureness of those who live to shoot to kill in the air.

This time he is asked to train a group of young top guns to fly a dangerous — and seemingly impossible — mission into an unnamed country that is developing a bunch of uranium for evil purposes. So the United States has to take out the base. The big problem: It’s heavily guarded, and the fighter jets must fly really low in hilly terrain to avoid radar detection, and then bomb the bejesus out of the site.

So Pete, aka Maverick, aka Cruise represents the old guy who can get ‘er done. He’s always been a problem, though. You know, he doesn’t follow protocol. He’s still a captain after all these years. His old pal, Iceman (Val Kilmer), is an admiral. And everyone seems to realize that Maverick is almost a relic. Still, they need him for this new, harrowing mission.

Jon Hamm shows up as a suspicious superior officer who keeps close tabs on Maverick. And then there’s Maverick’s team of youngsters who need to be taught. One of them Is Rooster (Miles Teller), who happens to be the son of Goose, who died in the original “Top Gun.” Maverick has always had a protective streak about Rooster, but Rooster is mad at Maverick for messing up his application to the Naval Academy (Long story, not interesting.)

And then there’s Hangman, played by Austin native Glen Powell. He is clearly gunning to be the next Tom Cruise, and he has the smile and body for it. But his character is sort of a jerk — at least at the beginning.

This wouldn’t be a suitable “Top Gun” retread without a romance. This time, the romantic interest is Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), who runs a bar near the Navy base and seems curiously rich, with an oceanfront home and a vintage Porsche. Who knew that bartenders lived such a life? At any rate, she and Maverick have a history, and there’s no doubt that they will ogle each other into the bedroom.

It should be noted that the action sequences are spectacular. The cinematography captures the incredible G-forces that face pilots who dare to push boundaries. And the very loud music only amplifies the stakes. (And the music is very, very loud).

For what it’s worth, Lady Gaga provides a very, very loud song as well.

Summer blockbusters are fun. “Top Gun: Maverick” will be a summer blockbuster. It’s probably best to leave your critical opinions at the door and enjoy the spectacle.

Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy is a former movies editor for The Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman.

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